Making Green Public

Any new technologies that are being used in buildings will gain acceptance much more quickly if the
public is exposed to the technologies and convinced of their benefits.

The public library in Elk River, Minnesota, is an excellent example of involving the public in new
architectural technologies. The city of Elk River has been designated Minnesota’s “Energy City” and,
as such, is mandated to showcase new energy technologies. Perhaps the most visible demonstration of
technology is the new building which houses the Great River Regional Library’s Elk River location.

This building is constructed on a “brownfield’ site: a site previously used for another building. It
incorporates landscaping which conserves water and uses shade trees to maximum effect. The use of
interlocking paving bricks in outdoor areas assists with drainage of rain water. Along with helping to
dissipate water from the site, the light colored bricks help to minimize the heat island effect, keeping
the surrounding area cooler and placing less stress on the ecosystem.

Inside the building, high efficiency low-consumption plumbing fixtures further conserve water.
The use of geothermal heating and cooling provides a significant energy savings, as does the use of
low-albedo roofing materials. Perhaps the most noticeable energy saving feature of the building,
and indeed its primary design theme, is the use of daylighting — the generous and intelligent use of
windows to provide interior lighting. The natural light greatly reduces the need for energy-consuming
electric lighting and also provides a more pleasing ambiance.

The fact that this is a public building means that many people will be educated in the advantages of
energy-efficient technologies. All of these technologies and innovations work together to create a
sustainable and economically responsible design. The design is so successful, in fact, that this building
has been awarded the Gold Certification by the Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED)
program. This certification emphasizes to the public the importance of these technologies in the
buildings of the future. Reducing the consumption of ever-scarcer resources is a very important issue
and public awareness is vital.


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